Travel

Travel Blog Post: Detroit, A Thriving International Vegetarian Food and Cocktail Scene

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As I discussed in my previous Detroit post, I am a big fan of techno (not EDM) and have a hard time finding high-quality, dark techno in Chicago as it is more of a haven for happier house music. So I made my annual pilgrimage to Movement Electronic Festival, which gave me ample opportunities to explore the food and cocktail scene of Detroit. What makes this weekend special for me is not even the festival, but the creative, artistic experiences that are so well-curated after the festival, basically the after-parties.

The abandoned Packard Plant
The abandoned Packard Plant
Abandoned Train Building

I always love the gritty vibe of Detroit as it feels more authentic with less glitzy, fake people than when you go out in Chicago. The architecture and street art are always hauntingly breathtaking and tragic at the same time. I am always interested in observing the gradual changes in Detroit that happen each year. While the city feels like it is slowly being rebuilt, it already has a thriving, affordable vegetarian food scene and impressive cocktail scene that will evolve in the next few years. See below for some notable vegetarian food and cocktail spots in Detroit!

Detroit views
Outside of my favorite place, Tangent.

Stop 1: Al Ameer Restaurant

Neighborhood: Dearborn

Vegetarian Options: ★★★★
Pescatarian Options: ★★★★
Affordability: ★★★★
Ambience: ★★★
Service: ★★★
Food Quality: ★★★★
Overall Rating: ★★★★

We usually go to Ollie’s for our Lebanese food fix but they unfortunately closed so we had to find a new spot! After intense research, we decided to try Al Ameer. They have quite an extensive menu and so many options that are not easy to find in Chicago. We started out with their Beirut hummus – a twist on traditional hummus with jalapeño, parsley, and tomato. It was nice to try a different hummus but I am a sucker for the traditional kind as the Beirut hummus had more of a saucy texture.

Moujadara
Moujadara

However, their baba ganoush was perfectly made with smoky eggplant and their accompanying pita was incredible. Their baked goods are certainly a must-have as the spinach pie blew me away! I also liked their Moujadara – a lentil rice dish with caramelized onions but their onions were fried. They added a lovely texture to the dish but I would have liked them to be caramelized.

Stop 2: Shatila Bakery

Neighborhood: Dearborn

Given that this is a bakery, I didn’t think it would be worth it to do a rating system. But if you are a fan of baklava and other Middle Eastern pastries, this is your place to be! They have an EXTENSIVE menu of sweets and it is very busy and popular so grab a number and use that time to look at their pastries through the glass. A classic must have is their pistachio baklava – it’s flaky, nutty, and sweet. I also highly recommend their Basbousa – a honey, semolina cake! It’s my favorite Middle Eastern pastry! I love the moist texture of the cake with a hint of rose water.

Baklava and Basbousa from Shatila.
Baklava and Basbousa from Shatila.

Stop 3: Checker Bar Detroit

Neighborhood: Downtown

Vegetarian Options: ★★★
Pescatarian Options: ★★★
Affordability: ★★★★
Ambience: ★★1/2
Service: ★★
Food Quality: ★★★★1/2
Overall Rating: ★★★

The festival got out around 1 am and we were hungry. We were downtown so we wanted to go somewhere that was not too far of a walk. We decided to go to Checker Bar Detroit. I honestly am not super into the Checker’s vibe as it’s divey and I am not into dive bars. However, they did have some decent looking vegetarian options so we decided to try it out. They weren’t serving their regular menu so they didn’t have vegetarian burgers. It was quite crowded from the post Movement traffic and the service was awful and slow. By the time our food came out, they were closing and yelling at people to leave. Was the food worth the bad service?

Vegan pizza

We ordered some basic shoestring fries, which were surprisingly seasoned well and really fulfilled our greasy food craving. We also shared two 12 inch pizzas, which felt larger than 12 inches. We ordered the vegetarian meat-hater pizza with artichokes, which tasted quite good. I really liked the artichokes and tomato sauce on it. We also ordered the vegan pizza, which was incredible. You wouldn’t expect a place like Checker Bar to have great vegan pizza, but they do! It was more like a Mexican pizza with walnut chorizo, southwestern sauces, and vegan Mexican cheese. The flavors blended very well and I wish I could have eaten more of it. Go there when they’re less busy because they do have good food!

Another cool Detroit building in Corktown

Stop 4: Ima

Neighborhood: Corktown

Vegetarian Options: ★★★★
Pescatarian Options: ★★★★★
Affordability: ★★★★
Ambience: ★★★★
Service: ★★★★
Food Quality: ★★★★1/2
Overall Rating: ★★★★
Green Tea

On our last day in Detroit we decided to explore Corktown as it has been highly recommended and has some great-looking vegetarian options. We went to Ima and I was very impressed. It’s a small, intimate Asian noodle spot with a great aesthetic and wonderful deep house music playing in the background. The service was quick and solid especially after the rough time at Checker Bar the night before. They also have a delightful patio (not dog friendly), but still pleasant that we were able to enjoy when we returned.

Forest Udon noodles

There were so many things I wanted to try on the menu because there were many solid vegetarian options but I decided to go with the ginger green tea and Forest Udon. The green tea was a mixture between loose-leaf and bagged tea – still perfect for a rainy day but I would have liked to taste the ginger more. The udon dish was great though. The noodles were definitely a highlight as they tasted fresh with a thick texture – perfect for slurping. The porcini mushroom broth was subtle and we added some ghost pepper sauce to it to spice it up. The trumpet mushrooms were a great touch. The tofu was satisfying but it could have been seasoned or smoked more. It was a very tasty bowl of udon with plenty of diverse vegetables. I am definitely coming back here next time I am in Detroit!

The most recent time we went, we also got their pickled vegetables, avocado, and tofu tacos. They were so flavorful, crunchy, and spicy. I highly recommend getting these appetizers to share!

Stop 4: The Sugar House

Neighborhood: Corktown

Affordability: ★★★
Ambience: ★★★★
Service: ★★★★★
Drink Quality: ★★★★1/2
Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2
Staghorn Sumac

I am quite accustomed to the myriad of wonderful cocktail bars in Chicago and wasn’t expecting Detroit to have such a great cocktail scene considering everything they have been through in the past ten years. I was wrong to make such an assumption! The Sugar House was recommended via Detroit Eater and it was in the neighborhood we were exploring so why not try it? Their service was exemplary.

Dragon’s Mouth

We sat at the bar and the bartenders were authentically nice and easygoing. It was a chill vibe for a cocktail spot, which I appreciated. They had quite the selection of cocktails ranging from seasonal spring cocktails to all the classic cocktails. I’ve never seen such a large cocktail menu in my life. I ordered the Staghorn Sumac, which was a mezcal cocktail with tequila, lime, and sumac. It was a refreshing, fun cocktail with a hint of chili-salt on the rim of the glass. I would have liked for the drink to be spicier, but it was still a good cocktail. I also tried the Dragon’s Mouth cocktail, which had scotch, violet liqueur, and lemon. Instead of having a smokey flavor from the scotch, it had a unique tart flavor. I wish I could have tried more of their drinks! Definitely coming back here the next time I am in town!

Stop 5: Batch Brewing Company

Neighborhood: Corktown

Since we didn’t get to try the food here, I don’t have a rating system. This craft brewery obviously has plenty of beer, but they also have wine, kombucha and cider, which is great for non-beer drinkers like me. Their most notable beverage was their beer slushee. It was refreshing for a hot, sunny day on their dog-friendly patio!

Beer Slushee
Beer Slushee

Stop 6: Lost River

Neighborhood: Corktown

Affordability: ★★★★
Ambience: ★★★★
Service: ★★★★1/2
Drink Quality: ★★★★
Overall Rating: ★★★★

Being a fan of Lost Lake in Chicago (a very notable tiki bar), I kept calling Lost Rivers Lost Lake in my head. Lost Rivers was doing a vegan popup that night so it was a perfect time to try this tiki bar. While the vegan options were limited and they were out of their main dish, I was still happy to try their cocktails. I tried the Zombie, which was presented with fire and tasted as great as it looked. It was a rum-based cocktail with Falernum, Pernod, Cinnamon syrup, and grapefruit. I loved the comforting cinnamon taste with the other refreshing flavors. We also tried the Tako, which had Rye, grapefruit, lime, and grenadine. This was also a pleasing cocktail but I am a fan of rum so I liked the Zombie more.

The other cocktails on their menu looked unique with a plethora of ingredients and were aesthetically pleasing. It’s a fun, laid back tiki environment – though it is intimate and small so you might have to wait. I did like the smoky, dark vibe as it added to the tropical tiki feel.

Stop 7: Tou & Mai

Neighborhood: Midtown

This compact Boba Tea and Asian mini mart is a dream for us tea lovers. Their teas are super customizable and delicious. I got a Thai Tea without any milk and added boba to it. It was perfect and I was so happy that I could have a Thai Tea without the boba!

Thai Boba Tea!
Thai Boba Tea!

Stop 8: The Cold Truth

Neighborhood: Midtown

Right next to Tou & Mai is vegan soft serve heaven, The Cold Truth. We just happened to see this darling spot and of course had to try it. Not only is their vegan soft serve made from scratch, they also make their own gluten-free cones. We tried their lavender soft serve with graham crackers sprinkled on top. I loved the texture of everything and the lavender was subtle but it still was tasty and refreshing.

Cold Truth Vegan Ice Cream
Cold Truth Vegan Ice Cream

Stop 9: Toast

Neighborhood: Ferndale

Vegetarian Options: ★★★
Pescatarian Options: ★★★★
Affordability: ★★★★
Ambience: ★★★★
Service: ★★★★
Food Quality: ★★★★1/2
Overall Rating: ★★★★

Ferndale is an adorable neighborhood just north of Detroit with cute coffee shops and restaurants (when they’re open). Toast is a highly rated brunch spot and I get why! I will add that they have a charming, dog-friendly patio, which was perfect for us given how we had our dog with us. I wouldn’t say Toast has that many vegetarian options outside of their omelettes (I am not super into omelettes) but they had enough. Their biscuits and challah bread are amazing so please order those with some fresh jam.

Lifesaving cold brew
Lifesaving cold brew
Eggs benedict with a veggie meat patty
Eggs Benedict with a veggie meat patty

I also was brought back to life with their refreshing cold brew. We had their Eggs Benedict and sub’d the meat with their vegetarian sausage patty, which was so delicious! The egg was perfectly poached, the hollandaise was a traditional creamy hollandaise and it was served with well-seasoned potatoes.

And that’s all for now…

Corktown street art

– Those were definitely the highlights! If you’d like to read about my Detroit experiences last year, check them out here! To the next Movement weekend in Detroit!

6 Comments

  1. Love this description of Detroit spots! I’ll have to check these out!

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  4. Places to try next time….
    Chartreuse, Selden standard, takoi, try it raw, Mabel gray, Mi Pueblo, cacao tree cafe, flowers of vietnam, sozai, white wolf Japanese patisserie, Bohemia, mutiny bar, standby, wright n co, cafe d’mongos, Castalia, madam, oak & reel, two James, motor city gas, barda, el barzon, grey ghost, coriander kitchen and bar, Detroit shipping co, milk & froth and spend the day in Ann Arbor❤️❤️

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